The appointment of Karen Frush as chief patient safety officer at Duke University Health System, Durham, N.C., capped a yearlong search that grew out of a highly public, botched heart-lung transplant that led to the death of a 17-year-old girl in February 2003. The appointment highlights a growing trend toward putting clinicians in key roles as patient-safety officers at U.S. hospitals. Frush, who was chief medical director of children's services at Duke University Hospital, will be responsible for developing a comprehensive patient-safety program across all sites in the health system, including strategic planning and analysis, program development, and measurement of the quality of patient-care and safety initiatives.
Duke settled a lawsuit in June with the family of Jesica Santillan, who died after a blood-typing error caused her body to reject transplanted organs. As the importance of preventing medical errors has become more apparent, hospitals nationwide have responded by creating safety-officer posts. The Patient Safety Officer Society, Gladwyne, Pa., attracted more than 300 members within three months of its 2002 launch. -- by John Morrissey